I want to share a fun story from our experience of learning culture (way of living or doing life) here in Senegal. I must admit that too often I think of the things that are different from home and that I am having difficulty adjusting to. When I do this, I miss out on so much that is positive about the culture here in our new home, Senegal.
One of the things that takes up a considerable part of our days here in Senegal is getting our kids to and from school. We have experimented with different ways of getting this accomplished. Taking the city bus, taking taxis, taking the bus one way and a taxi the other way, getting a taxi for the round trip etc. After all of this experimenting, we were beginning to think about trying to find a taxi driver and make an agreement for him to do the round trip every morning and afternoon for an agreed upon taxi fare. An aspect of culture here is that you have to barter with the taxi driver for the fare EVERY time. Each taxi driver may or may not be willing to adjust there fare, so you may have to wait for several taxis to go by.
One evening I was down visiting our friend Waly at the boutique (corner store). Waly’s friend and neighbor, Mbarick came into the store and was sitting watching TV. Mbarick then said something to Waly in a local language (Wolof). Waly then relayed to me that if I was outside at the bus stop with the kids a few minutes before 7AM that Mbarick would take me and the kids to school each day on his way to work. Waly noticed that where our kids go to school is on Mbarick’s way to work, and he had asked Mbarick if he would be willing to drop us off at school each morning. (Right now the kids are riding to school with Sharon, who also takes her daughter to the same school each morning, but we wanted to share this story with you to get a window into our world of adjustments.)
This story fits into some of what we have observed here in Senegal which is that people just help each other. All of the time, not just close friends, but even people they don’t know. Another example, on our way back from French class we can spend a considerable amount of time at a bus stop. We started noticing partially full taxis stopping and filling up with people from the bus stop. We also noticed personal vehicles and even company vehicles stopping and people piling in for a free ride. We asked our language and culture helper about this and she shared with us that this is common here. People understand that transportation is hard, especially in our neighborhood, so they pick up those waiting for the bus and take them to the round-a-bout in the neighborhood, which gets them well on their way to where they need to go.
We are so thankful for those that are praying for us as we continue this process of understanding our new context here in Senegal and adapting to the culture here. It is all so new and different. We continue to be reminded that we are in a new culture now for just over four months. This means that, in a lot of senses, we are like four month-olds here in Senegal i.e. we have a TON to learn and we do not know very much.